Morning News Briefs and Friday's Forecast

Posted: December 20, 2013

Winchester-Area Weather: Expect today to be similar to Thursday with an above-average high temperature near 55 under cloudy skies. An overnight low of 45. Warm with a chance of rain throughout the weekend. A 40-percent chance of rain on Saturday as temperatures will reach the mid- to upper 60s. It will only drop to 58 overnight. A 50-percent chance of rain on Sunday and a high near 70. Overcast and 51 on Monday, then cooling back down to the mid-30s for a clear and sunny Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Morning News Briefs for Friday, December 20, 2013
Fury and frustration over Target data breach
NEW YORK (AP) — Potential victims of credit card fraud tied to Target's security breach said they had trouble contacting the discounter through its website and call centers. Angry Target customers expressed their displeasure in comments on the company's Facebook page. Some even threatened to stop shopping at the store. Target apologized on Facebook and said it's working hard to resolve the problem and is adding more workers to field calls and help solve website issues.

Congress sends sweeping defense bill to Obama
WASHINGTON (AP) — The women of the Senate who led the fight to change how the military deals with sexual assault in its ranks are hailing passage of a comprehensive defense bill that now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature. The Senate voted 84-15 Thursday night for the $632.8 billion bill that covers combat pay, new ships, aircraft and military bases. Drawing the greatest attention were provisions cracking down on perpetrators of sexual assault and rape.

Options set for those lacking new health coverage
WASHINGTON (AP) — People whose existing health care insurance has been canceled because of the Affordable Care Act will not be hit with tax penalties for failing to line up new coverage as required under the law. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she will use authorities in the law to issue a "temporary hardship exemption" from those penalties.

Brightness on tap at Portland, Ore., bar
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Saturday marks the shortest day of the year — the pinnacle of dread for people who feel depressed when there's less sunshine. When they go out for a drink or coffee in the dreary wintertime Pacific Northwest, they could also order up a dose of something else entirely: a few rays of bright light. Designed to mimic sunlight, light boxes are now being featured at a bar in Portland and a cafe in Seattle to help those with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, an energy-sapping depression that occurs at the same time each year and affects an estimated 3 percent to 5 percent of Americans.

Putin signs decree to pardon tycoon Khodorkovsky
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a decree pardoning jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the man who has been described as his archrival. Khodorkovsky has spent the past 10 years in prison on charges of tax evasion and embezzlement. His arrest in 2003 and the subsequent prosecution have been widely considered to be Putin's retribution for Khodorkovsky's political ambitions.

Japan robot chats with astronaut on space station
TOKYO (AP) — The first humanoid robot in space made small talk with a Japanese astronaut and said it had no problem with zero gravity on the International Space Station. Footage released by the robot's developers on Friday showed Kirobo performing its first mission on the station, talking in Japanese with astronaut Koichi Wakata to test its autonomous conversation functions.

Safety reassurance after London theater collapse
LONDON (AP) — An industry group sought to reassure theatergoers Friday that London's elegant but aging venues are safe after chunks of ornamental plaster fell from a ceiling of the Apollo Theatre, showering patrons with dust and debris and injuring 76 people. The Society of London Theatre said all theaters undergo "rigorous safety checks and inspections by independent experts, and incidents like last night are extremely rare."

'Duck Dynasty' fans react to Robertson's hiatus
LOS ANGELES (AP) — When the A&E network suspended "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson for disparaging gay people, it may have followed a time-honored TV tradition of quickly silencing a star who, for better or worse, speaks his mind. But in doing so it also ruffled the feathers of possibly millions of fans of its most popular show. Fourteen hours after it was learned that Robertson had been placed on indefinite "hiatus" for telling GQ magazine, among other things, that gays are headed to hell, more than a half-million people liked an impromptu Facebook page demanding the show be boycotted until he returns.

Rodman holds tryouts for Pyongyang exhibition game
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Former NBA star Dennis Rodman held tryouts Friday for a North Korean team to face a dozen NBA veterans in an exhibition game on leader Kim Jong Un's birthday next month — though he hasn't convinced all the players on the American team that it's safe to come to Pyongyang. The flamboyant Hall of Famer said plans for the Jan. 8 game are moving ahead but some of the 12 Americans he wants are afraid to come.